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Episode 33 Is Raising Meat Sustainable?

Based on something I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago I realized that there might be some misconceptions on the part of myself and maybe some other people out there about the sustainability of raising animals for meat.  So, while travelling from house to house during my move I pondered these points.  This episode has poor production values but I wanted to get something out after so long an absence.

*My stance on human-caused global warming.

*You may not think meat animals have an effect on global warming (or that it even is caused by Carbon) but does it have any other side effects?

*The things that have allowed meat animals to exist in the numbers they do.  You can’t love hate GMO’s and Big Ag and assume you are entitled to your daily share of beef!

*Why my ancestors (and probably yours too) never raised animals for meat but rather for other protein sources (eggs, milk).  Meat was a byproduct and was enjoyed sparingly. 

*Learn why meat dictated the date of Christmas!

*What are some alternatives?

10 comments to Episode 33 Is Raising Meat Sustainable?

  • GoneWithTheWind

    Was the enormous herds of buffalo unsustainable? Are you argueing that it was good that they were all killed off?

    Without exception these claims are thinly veiled attempts to force everyone to become vegetarians. Why the subtrafuge? Why not state your position and accept that most people don’t want to be vegetarians.

  • Jason

    GoneWithTheWind

    You come back again and again making comments like this. Essentially not listening to the show or you’d know that I am not nor do I want people to become vegetarians. I mean honestly you don’t listen to the shows and you don’t agree with what I have to say. Move on. If you have something constructive to add…after listening to the show then fine.

    Were the enormous herds of buffalo unsustainable? Yes, with the human population as is its not a possibility. Are the millions of cattle in confinement unsustainable? Yes they are, deal with it.

    I offer solutions, you offer unfounded criticism.

    Jason

  • GoneWithTheWind

    I only comment on that which interests me or that I disagree with. I have not commented that much and didn’t think I was offensive. My comments on the goats were a sincere effort to understand why goats.

    My point that only those advocating vegetarianism choose to advocate everyone else give up meat and claim it is “unsustainable” or unhealthy. In other words they are argueing for their bias. I happen to be a non-drinker. It would be pretty easy for me to argue in favor of prohibition but it has already been proven that prohibiting people from consuming what they want doesn’t work. I honestly don’t think you are going to convert omnivores to vegetarianism. Why try?

    You are correct, I did not listen to the podcast. I am not crazy about an audio format on the internet. I prefer the written word. I can read the transcript of an half hour podcast in a couple of minutes. So it’s a question of time.

    I will refrain from commenting anymore.

  • Hello from Australia. I enjoy both this podcast and the gardening one. I must say that I think you are dead wrong with this podcast. Meat when done raised correctly is far sustainable that grains. You are basing your arguments on confinement animal raising which is a grossly wasteful and unhealthy system. Pastured grazing animals using time-controlled rotational grazing, that mimics the herds on the prairies. This systems rapidly builds topsoil, sequesters carbon, aerates the soil and has the power to re-green deserts. Raising grains tends to destroy topsoil and is also nutritionally deficient compared to pastured meat. I would highly recommend that you watch the following video to gain a better understanding of this issue http://vimeo.com/8239427 .Keep up your podcast and keep up the learning.

    • Jason

      Evan

      Thanks and thanks for the comment.

      I don’t disagree with your assessment. I tried to do a better job of explaining that pasturing any animal is going to be more sustainable than confinement and maybe even completely sustainable.

      I think there are some conspiring forces working against people like us though. Selective breeding is killing us for one. Animals are being bred and heritage breeds lost that make better use of less. Cows for instance are bred today to take on feed and pack on pounds quickly. Then take population. If the individual can make meat sustainable that’s one thing but for our society its going to be tough with population increases, less land, etc. Now I’m not advocating eugenics or anything like that, just stating that populations increase.

      I don’t think grain raising is completely unsustainable as you describe. Fukuoka in Japan had tons of success doing chop and drop farming. Plus there are quite a few crops that put nutrients back in the soil.

      But that being said I think you are right about animals being excellent soil builders. I’m planning my pig-pen right now and trying to find a way to make it moveable so I can let the root up things. My chickens are already in a tractor and I can tell you that chicken manure is the best soil builder hands down. Goat or cow pasture is next but I need a dozer for that!

      I’ll check out that video. I like what I’ve read on your blog so far.

      Take care,

      Jason

  • Jason

    Gonewiththewind

    I welcome your posts and even your disagreement but for the sake of everything holy, listen to the podcast before you presume anything about me.

    My whole supposition in this episode was that calorie-wise you’d be better off to eat first the grain you feed your animals. Then to understand that keeping a cow (or GOAT LOL) for milk is a much wiser and sustainable (from a “I can’t go buy feed” standpoint). I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t think its a choice for me or one that makes sense from an evolution standpoint as well. I eat meat and I don’t mean I eat steak. I’m talking venison and chicken livers and smoked pork – real meat.

    I don’t want to convert anyone into anything except people that are more informed about their food and its history.

    Jason

  • GoneWithTheWind

    You are correct and it does indeed appear I jumped to a conclusion based on things I have read elsewhere that appeared similar to your “headline” about your podcast.

  • Nes

    What the heck is anthropomorphic climate change? Who coined that term? That doesn’t make sense. I am anthropomorphizing when I say “my cattle will miss their calves when we send them for meat”. Anthropomorphic climate change would be “The earth is mad at us and making the climate hotter”. And maybe I’m wrong about that, but that is not a term I have ever heard.

    You’re very correct on the point that raising animals in confinement is just stupid. It breeds disease and vastly increases the amount of inputs needed to get cattle to weight (talking about “real costs”). With proper pasture management you can raise a large number of animals on a small tract of land with few inputs. We have 2 cow/calf pairs on our 4 acres green orchard grass pasture (with other animals) if we hadn’t just moved in & had proper fences set up to rotate pastures, we wouldn’t have needed to add hay this summer (a little rain would have helped that too!).

    Cows definitely damage the soil with their heavy & wide hooves. Our goats do very little damage, they don’t bother with the grass either. If they do take a bite they graze it down like a cow/horse/sheep would, but we have enough browse they don’t want the grass at all. I can see them pulling up huge clumps if they were really hungry.

    Something to consider when keeping any animals is that you really shouldn’t keep 1 of anything. Unless they were hand-raised, animals really prefer company of their own species. So if you get cows, you should get 2 or 3. If you get goats, the same. So you can’t just count the land use by 1 of anything.

    I think what is harder to manage sustainably for meat is a breeding herd of livestock. Male animals tend to be rangy and hormonal, so they need special equipment/living quarters and most of them don’t taste very good because of the hormones. We’ve chosen to keep mostly non-breeding animals, with the exception of the cattle who we’ll be trucking out for a few weeks, or A.I.. We’re planning pigs next year and we’ll be buying weaners to raise every year. We don’t have the space/inclination to keep a sow/pig year round.

    You definitely don’t need a bull-dozer to clear the land for cows, just let the piggies do their thing!

  • Jason

    Nes

    Sorry, something I picked up from the peak oil crowd. It is exactly not a descriptive term at all.

    Jason

  • Kelly

    Rabbits are a good/sustainable meat source that uses small input for conversion to meat. Also, Joel Salatin has a lot of good information for sustainable, soil building animal husbandry.

    I enjoy the show, thanks for putting it on…wish some of it was more New England applicable, but being formerly from TN, I enjoy a lot of the reminders of home.

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